In my last blog, I indicated that because of a phenomenon called negativity bias, our brain is hard-wired to focus on negative events. I can hear you saying, “Well, Mary, since I’m naturally wired to pay attention to the negative, how can I possibly overcome negative thinking? I’m glad you asked!
It’s important to understand that despite widespread negativity, it is not pervasive. That means we have a choice in terms of where to focus our energies. Below are some ways to diminish the power of pessimism.
Leaning Towards Enlightenment
1. Adjust your expectations. We tend to assign weight to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ based on our expectations. Because of self-fulfilling prophecy, we have a way of making false notions become true through our perceptions. Once we convince ourselves that a situation is negative, regardless of whether or not it actually is, we attribute a negative meaning. For example, if you think upon waking, “I’m going to have a lousy day,” your expectations will likely reinforce this perspective. A positive expectation would be “I’m going to have a productive day!”
2. Be mindful of the company that you keep. The Greek philosopher, Epictetus so eloquently stated, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” Enough said.
3. Don’t compare yourself with others. There will always be others who are richer, smarter, stronger, better looking, more popular, (fill in the blank), than we are. Comparing ourselves to others stimulates negativity and misery. The goal is to become better than your previous self. In other words, compete only with your own achievements.
4. Find ways to improve each day. By focusing on incremental self-improvement, you can begin to view learning and change as opportunities. Through dedication and a willingness to change from the inside/out, you can discover solutions to some of life’s toughest challenges and be a source of great inspiration and enlightenment to others.
5. Remember you are what you think. We can’t stop our thoughts, but we can change them. Rather than trying to prevent yourself from thinking a certain thought, identify ways to redirect it. When you find yourself thinking about something negative, ask yourself a provocative question such as, What are my intentions here? or How can I deal with this situation in a more constructive way? or What assumptions have I made that need to be tested? or What’s good about this situation? Ponder the question long enough to create a shift in your thinking.
Negativity can be a deciding factor between success and failure — for you and your organization. To help you accentuate the positive, I leave you with a powerful anonymous quote that a former personal trainer shared with me years ago, which I’ve now committed to memory: “This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind… let it be something good.”
Until Next Time,